Garry Trudeau, the creator of the syndicated newspaper comic strip Doonesbury, makes no secret of his opinion of President-elect Donald Trump, who he has taken to task in his strip since the 1980s. The strip has proved exceptionally prescient; in one installment, Trudeau even predicted Trump's presidential run. Trudeau's efforts have culminated in Yuge!: 30 Years of Doonesbury on Trump (Andrews McMeel), which published in paperback in July and has seen a significant bump in sales since the election. In an interview with PW, Trudeau discusses Yuge!, Trump, and the future as he sees it.
You first began lampooning Donald Trump in your strip Doonesbury during the 1980s. What prompted you to single him out?
Sheer annoyance. In New York, Trump had been inescapable for years, so when he floated his first trial balloon in 1987, I was highly motivated to take aim. Local figures generally require a lot of exposition, but by then Trump and his imaginary press agents had done such a good job of self-promotion, it turned out not to be a problem.
What sort of feedback about this book were you hearing from readers before the election? How about after?
The book was always a risk. We had to pull the trigger on publishing it early last spring, when it was by no means clear that Trump would win the nomination. If he hadn’t prevailed, the book would have been DOA. As it turned out, Trump was on a tear, and I think readers wondered if he'd always been that obnoxious. Well, yes, he had. The underlying personality disorder had been remarkably stable for decades. The book was hard evidence.
Post-election the big surprise is that sales have remained strong. My guess is that stunned, frightened readers are now looking for comic relief. Or Christmas presents.
What are some of the most unexpected of Trump's character traits that make for good parody?
Well, to me, none of them are unexpected — and all of them are good for parody. Trump won with evangelicals, but if you look at his character from a Christian viewpoint, he’s the embodiment of all Seven Deadly Sins and none of the Seven Heavenly Virtues. He’s 0 for 14. When you’re that evil, satirists have a lot of work with.
What is a truth about Trump you hope your readers will be able to glean from your strip in the years to come?
That his campaign was always a con, his true metier. What the people who love Donald Trump never understood is that he never loved them back. His admirers were typically disaffected, left behind by a changing economy. Trump has a word for people like that: losers. He prefers winners. He’s already appointed four billionaires to his cabinet. And three Goldman Sachs alumni. Does anyone really believe this gang has even the slightest concern for working Americans?
Have you ever been subject to one of Trump's Twitter blasts? If so, how did you take it?
I’ve been subjected to numerous Trump blasts through the years, but they were pre-Twitter, usually appearing in the NY tabloids. Naturally, I loved it. The only way you know your work has bite is if someone says, “Ouch!"
Are you surprised by how Trump is handling the transition to the presidency?
No. Outraged, yes, but nothing surprises me anymore. The only thing positive you can say is that NONE of the Four Horsemen of the campaign — Guiliani, Christie, Gingrich and Putin — looks likely to get a job.
What are your thoughts on Trump's lack of respect—perceived or otherwise—for the media and the First Amendment?
Let’s be clear. Donald Trump respects no one, because that’s how narcissistic sociopaths roll. Why should the press be any different? The only journalists he views as “honest" (those with as high an opinion of him as he has) paradoxically have to debase themselves too much for him to respect.
Do you think there will ever come a time where you'll be unable to produce further Trump strips because the reality is stranger than any parody could be?
No. It’s the job of a satirist to rearrange or fracture reality to reveal some truth about it. You don’t necessarily have to top it.
Are there plans in the works for a follow-up collection to Yuge!?